Japanese scholar given Ramon Magsaysay Award for “selfless, steadfast service to the Cambodian people”

The results of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay’s Award, sometimes called the Asian Nobel Prize, are out – a notable recipient of the award this year is Prof. Yoshiaki Ishizawa of Sophia University, who is recognised for his long career in cultural heritage preservation of Angkor. Congratulations, Professor Ishizawa!

  • Ishizawa devoted fifty years of his life to help assure that Angkor Wat survives and remains a living monument for Cambodians.
  • Starting in 1980, Ishizawa worked side by side with Cambodians, networked with international experts and organizations, campaigned in the Japanese media to generate awareness and support, and devised programs for Angkor’s protection and conservation.
  • Ishizawa has been relentless in building local expertise and commitment to Angkor’s preservation. He quietly but adamantly insists, “The protection and restoration of the sites of Cambodia should be carried out by the Cambodians, for the Cambodians.”
  • In electing Yoshiaki Ishizawa to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes “his selfless, steadfast service to the Cambodian people, his inspiring leadership in empowering Cambodians to be proud stewards of their heritage, and his wisdom in reminding us all that cultural monuments like the Angkor Wat are shared treasures whose preservation is thus, also our shared global responsibility.”

Source: Ishizawa, Yoshiaki • The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation • Honoring greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia

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See Angkor Wat and Borobudur in Lego

via Channel NewsAsia, 27 July 2017: A new exhibition in Singapore features Lego versions of World Heritage Sites, including Southeast Asian ones like Angkor Wat, Borobudur and the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Brick by brick: New Lego exhibition gathers together World Heritage Sites

Source: Brick by brick: New Lego exhibition gathers together World Heritage Sites – Channel NewsAsia

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Chiang Mai Museum reopens after renovation

via Bangkok Post, 27 July 2017:

The Chiang Mai National Museum has a new face after four years of renovation. Reopened on June 14, it brings exhibitions to life using state-of-the-art technology and presentations, and hopes to attract younger visitors.

Source: A new Lanna gem | Bangkok Post: lifestyle

Funds available for emergency conservation of documentary heritage – Prince Claus Fund

Passing on a funding opportunity by the Prince Claus Fund, which offers funding for documentary heritage that has come under urgent need for preservation in emergency situations. Projects in Asia are eligible for funding. Full details in the link below.

The Prince Claus Fund, through its Cultural Emergency Response programme (CER), and the Whiting Foundation announce a new call for proposals for projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean to safeguard documentary heritage that is acutely threatened by recent conflict or other disaster, whether natural or man-made.

Source: Prince Claus Fund – Activities

[Lecture] A New Interpretation on the Eastern Limit of Ptolemy’s World Map and its Influence on European Worldview in the Evolution of Southeast Asian Mapping

Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this talk at the Siam Society by Trongjai Hutangkura on 31 August 2017.

The Geography, written in the second century CE by Claudius Ptolemy (c. 100 ce- c. 170 ce), described the Earth’s geography through knowledge from Greco-Roman trade routes. The map India beyond the Ganges presented geographical information stretching from the river’s east bank towards China. Although previous studies provided place-names based on cognate comparisons between Ptolemaic data and recent toponyms, the identification of the Ptolemaic eastern limit remains problematic, exemplified by a location known to the ancient Romans as Kattigara, possibly Hangzhou (China) or Óc Eo (Vietnam). My research raises the possibility of Kattigara being located in the vicinity of the Korea Bay, based on a comparison of geographical landmarks such as the river’s mouth and cape. Other possibilities may involve Suvarṇabhūmi and a town called Zabai (Óc Eo). Though geographic recognition of Ptolemaic toponyms has since disappeared, their graphic information is still acknowledged and carries some influence in Southeast Asia, including in maps compiled by European and Arab cartographers in the 12th-16th centuries. These maps are a blend of Ptolemaic place-names and navigational information of their ages, visualising an imaginary continent of Southeast Asia. My presentation will illustrate research on the identification of cartographic information of Ptolemy’s India beyond the Ganges and Chinese lands as the basis for the study of ancient Southeast Asian maps.

Source: A New Interpretation on the Eastern Limit of Ptolemy’s World Map and its Influence on European Worldview in the Evolution of Southeast Asian Mapping. A talk by Trongjai Hutangkura

[Lecture] A Mauryan–Śunga Period Ringstone: 3rd-1st Century BCE, found in Peninsular Thailand

Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this lecture at the Siam Society on 24 August 2017 by Anna Bennett.

In October 2014, a finely decorated Śunga ringstone was found by the owner of a sand quarry on the Tha Tapao River on the eastern side of Isthmus region of the Thai peninsula. The ringstone is a characteristic, almost defining object of the Mauryan – Śunga periods of Northern India, where possibly as many as 70 have been recorded from the Punjab, eastwards along the Ganges Valley to Bihar. A few ringstones are held in major museums outside India, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum in London, the Asian Art Museum in Berlin, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum. A few are also in private collections. The present example from Peninsular Thailand is the only one known to have been found outside the Indian subcontinent, thus providing yet more clear evidence for ancient contacts and trade between India and Thailand from the early centuries BCE, which long predated the establishment of the later Indian-influenced kingdoms in Southeast Asia. The function of these ringstones has never been clarified, although the author suggests that jewellery moulds remain a likely explanation for the extraordinary level of carved detail. Other suggestions have included that they were ear spools, although this seems improbable, on the practical grounds of their weight. Others have suggested a cult use or use as an apotropaic or physical contraceptive device due to the depiction of the nude mother goddess alternating with the ‘Tree of Life’. This ringstone was found at the same site as at least four very thin and fragmentary gold circular foils, which is the first occurrence of such an association, and lends weight to the hypothesis that the ringstones were perhaps, among other things, moulds for beating thin gold sheet ornaments. One of the gold sheets has an animal decorative motif which is very similar to that on the ringstone itself and the other has a repoussé design of interlinked ‘S’ motifs very similar to the only other known gold sheet, which was found in a burial context in India.

Source: A Mauryan–Śunga Period Ringstone: 3rd-1st Century BCE, found in Peninsular Thailand. A talk by Anna Bennett

[Lecture] Tantrism and State Formation in Southeast Asia

Readers in Singapore may be interested in this lecture by Andrea Ancri at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre on 14 August 2017.

Tantrism and State Formation in Southeast Asia

The socio-religious phenomenon we now call “Tantrism” dominated the religious and ritual life in much of South and Southeast Asia from around 500 CE to 1500 CE and beyond. Yet, the impact of Śaiva and Buddhist Tantric traditions on the societies and cultures of Southeast Asia remains insufficiently studied and appreciated. The talk will explore the indissoluble link between the State and Tantric ideologies/ritual systems in Southeast Asia. It will first deal with state formation, evaluating the theories of “man of prowess” and “Śaiva bhakti” elaborated by historian Oliver Wolters, then turn to the role of Tantric magic and ritual in the medieval maṇḍala polities of Sumatra, Java, and Cambodia. Finally, it will offer some concluding reflections on the link between politics, power, and the “supernatural” in modern Southeast Asia.

Source: Lecture: Tantrism and State Formation in Southeast Asia – ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

[Lecture] Ancient Peninsular Siam and its Neighborhood

Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this lecture at the Siam Society by my colleague Wannasarn Noonsuk in 10 August 2017. Dr Noonsuk is the Senior Specialist in Visual Arts at SPAFA.

This talk provides observations concerning socio-cultural development in Peninsular Siam and its significance in maritime Southeast Asia since the Iron Age. This area between two oceans was an important link for the East-West maritime trade as well as a production hub of jewelry, tin and forest products since the late centuries BCE. Among several principalities later developed in this isthmian tract, Tambralinga was an outstanding kingdom. Its material remains from the 5th century CE suggest that Hinduism was prominent and offered different artistic idioms from the Dvaravati expression of central Thailand in the same period. In terms of social interaction, the distribution of Bronze drums indicates that the isthmian tract was part of the neighborhood of communities around the Gulf of Siam, which was a busy hub of trade and a large market with common vision. It is likely that the ornaments produced at the sites such as Khao Sam Kaeo and Phukhao Thong were for the growing market in the Gulf and beyond to the east, rather than for India in the West. The Vishnu images from this area may have been the prototypes of those in the Mekong Delta. Perhaps similar to the Funan polity of the 1st- 6th centuries, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya in the 15th century launched military campaigns to the peninsula as an attempt to control the Gulf neighborhood.

Source: Ancient Peninsular Siam and its Neighborhood. A Talk by Wannasarn Noonsuk

UP study offers clues to ancient biodiversity, early human movement in Southeast Asia

via UP Press Office, 18 July 2017:

The prehistoric shell tools uncovered in Mindoro by the team of archaeologists, geologists, ecologists, geneticists and social scientists from the University of the Philippines could point to the start of a transition from hunting/gathering to the agricultural or semi-agricultural subsistence strategies of our ancestors.

Since 2012, the team has been working on an ambitious multiyear project funded by the Emerging Interdisciplinary Research Program to answer questions about ancient biodiversity and early human movement in Island Southeast Asia.

Using Mindoro as the site of study, they hoped to find not only further clues to how early humans arrived in the Philippine islands and how landscape formation, sea levels and landmass affected their movement but also indications of how such movement changed fauna and flora.

Source: UP study offers clues to ancient biodiversity, early human movement in Southeast Asia

Cambodia housed many universities during Angkor era

via Phnom Penh Post, 25 July 2017: I think a caveat must be made about the different meaning of ‘education’ and ‘university’ during Angkorian times…

When thinking about the Angkor era, it is common for one to conjure up images of towering infrastructure structures, such as the temples of Angkor Wat. However, what is less knows is that the Khmer ancestors were also able to receive high levels of education during the Angkor Empire.

Source: Cambodia housed many universities during Angkor era, Post Plus, Phnom Penh Post